Watch and Listen


Every city needs good watchmen. In biblical times, watchmen were stationed in towers, guarding the security of their town. They needed excellent eyes. From their vantage point above they could spot enemies approaching in the distance. They could anticipate enemy movements, their strength of arms, and ready the townspeople with their warnings. More than great eyes, watchmen needed great ears. At night, vision lacking, their security was in their listening. The watchman had to sift through the various sounds of the dark. Was that crack the sound of some nocturnal beast on the prowl or was it the footstep of a foe? Good ears could save lives, even an entire town.

Watchmen are essential to the security of a city. The same is true of the soul. We ourselves, like a town, are home to many residents and powers. We have our imagination, memory and intellect. We have our emotions, hopes and talents. There are the various parts of our bodies as well. Like the citizens of a town, each member has its own responsibility, talent and need. They also each have their foes. The mind has its own enemies, as does the heart. The body too has dangerous adversaries. We are to be the watchman of them all.

As we enter into advent this Sunday, Jesus exhorts us, “Be watchful! Be alert!” We need well-trained eyes to perceive an approaching enemy. With experience, we should be able to perceive a foe in the distance, anticipate his strategies, and thereby avoid every near occasion of sin. Even more importantly, we need good ears, especially when it grows dark. We need ears that can discern the voice of an enemy, however sweet he sounds at the gate. We need ears that know the voice of the Master. In the dark, when the night swirls with threatening thoughts and whispered anxieties, we need a disciplined ear, unmoved until it hears the voice of the Lord. Good ears can save us from many useless disasters.

But not all threats come from without. A town can be corrupted from within, its members greedily serving their own desires. This can happen with the soul. Our affections can seek their own satisfaction, thoughtless of the harm done to the mind or body. The body can serve its own immediate pleasures, insensitive to the destruction brought upon the soul. This is why Jesus tells us to be like a household expecting the Master’s return. We are to keep our house in order. Vigilant in expectation, each member is reminded that it doesn’t serve itself. Remaining watchful, looking for the Lord, each member is united, working together to ensure that everything is ready for the Master’s return.